"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Thursday, January 3, 2019

In my winter garden with grief

Pussy Willows promise of spring to come.
Today marks the one month anniversary of my father's death. Some days I feel simply bowled over with the pain of loss, other days I seem completely fine. Or, and this seems the most likely, all the sudden I feel ambushed by grief. My husband patiently reminds me this is the way of grief. One has to be patient and gentle with oneself while learning to navigate in a new world, one without the lost parent.

Yet each day seems to unfold as any other day with the demands and joys of every day life. Amid this life I am frequently beckoned to the backyard, if for no other reason than I have a dog. Some days, like today, I have to escort Bingley to the grass because he doesn't like to go out in the rain either. Other days I wander around my yard, my winter garden, with a shovel in hand collecting his waste. Today my shoes slipped in the mud as I traversed the soggy yard. As I righted myself, the thought occurred to me that the winter garden could be a metaphor for my grief.

Anyone who has a garden knows that sometimes things are lovely and other times not so lovely in the yard. Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 reminds us that this is all part of God's plan:
"There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven: 
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot, 
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance..."

My yard is pretty bleak right now. All the trees are without their leaves. Moss is growing everywhere it can find to take root. No flowers are blooming. Yet in the garden the potential for spring exists. We know in a few months the whole earth will be bursting with life. In his poem, "Gone from My Sight, poet Bishop Brent reminds me about perspective comparing death to a sailing ship.
"And just at the moment when someone at my side says,
'(S)He is gone',
There are others who are watching (her)his coming, and other voices take up the glad shout:
'There (s)he comes'
---and that is dying. An horizon and just the limit of our sight.
Lift us up, Oh Lord, that we may see further."

My father was a man of faith and for that reason I am assured that he indeed was greeted warmly on the other side. St. Francis of Assisi said it best, "It is in dying that we are born to eternal life."

During the memorial service last week, I and my siblings all got up to speak. We divided up what we would say so as to not repeat ourselves. Out of our mouths came many examples of Dad's exemplary life and funny growing up stories to prove he was also very human. Sharing those stories helps keep Dad alive in our minds and our hearts. We are forever connected to him, as are our children and grandchildren. We are charged to carry Dad's memories with us along with our own, as Galway Kinnell reminds me in the poem "Promissory Note." But some of these memories threaten to swamp my little boat and I feel overwhelmed by the displays of grief from my siblings and mother and the looks of concern on the faces on friends.

So back to the garden I go. As I step outside, I hear the insistent call of our resident humming bird. He chatters away happily, though the skies are threatening to rain. The dog charges off after some imaginary friend or foe, running frantically to and fro. A frog sounds off with a deep croak. I am rooted in place by the joy of it all. How can this be? I come to the garden to mourn and instead find  joy and life. Maya Angelou's beautiful poem, "When Great Trees Fall", reverberates around in my head reminding me that Dad lived and lives on.
"And when great souls die,

after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed." 

He existed.
He existed.
I can be.
Be and be better.
For he existed.


  1. Anne,
    Your words help me find peace as I grieve my dear mother-in-law. Thank you so much.

  2. Grief isn't linear, and it's ugly. It comes over us at unexpected moments and can bring us to our knees. I'm glad you're out in your winter garden, finding meaning in its starkness and promise and reflecting on your precious memories of your father. He is never gone because he lives in all of you. xoxo

  3. I find the winter garden full of amazing shapes, textures and depth when I look for them. Some make me happy. Some a little sad. I get a clear view of the garden's bones and what will come with the burst of spring. Like the avid gardener George Harrison did I also love for the night garden and its dark shapes and shadows on foggy nights with a full moon. Seldom do people walk their yard at night without a light but there are things to see. Each season and time in my garden is its own private world and yet tied extricable together. And yes, this is also about the process of laughing, crying and grieving.

  4. I am being ambushed by grief every day it seems. Yesterday it was when I was talking to a friend who didn't know...Today it was at the dentist office in response to the question, "How was your Christmas?"

  5. I'm sorry for your loss. I think it just has to be worked through and lived and accepted or else it will get squashed down and burst out more damagingly later on. I'm glad you were able to share a celebration of your father's life with your siblings and know he was a good example. I wish you peace as you travel through your journey of grieving.

  6. I think gardens can be a real place for healing and reflecting; I am glad you have yours in this time of grief.


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